Lent is a marathon. I think that we often get to the third week or so and start to recognize that it’s a marathon, but that we approached it from the beginning as if it were a sprint. We set lofty goals and we went after them with great ardor. And now, we’re spent. Our resolutions are looking a little rough around the edges. We’re discouraged because we’re not making the spiritual progress we’d hoped to make, but the calendar is marching onward towards Easter. The battle for Lent is being waged in our heads — that’s where most marathons are finished, or not.
In an effort to throw off the trappings of the world and to put on the love of Christ, we have to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). Renewal is an ongoing, lifelong process. God wants us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we know and act upon His will for our lives. Did your “Lent list” look like a to-do and “to-don’t” list? It’s helpful to stop now, at roughly the midpoint, and remind ourselves that Lent is not about the checklist. The checklist is the training plan for the marathon. Lent is about transformation. It’s about transfiguration. It’s about becoming more and more like Christ. It’s about uniting our hearts and souls with Him in order to shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Matthew 13:43).
We resolved to get up earlier to do some spiritual reading every day. But around the end of the second week of Lent, winter returned with a vengeance and Daylight Savings Time kicked in, and we stayed under the covers first one day, and then the next. Four days later, we’ve given up on our “something extra” because now it’s a lost cause.
No it’s not. You lost four training days. That’s not the end. Pick up where you left off. The renewal of your mind is a lifelong process; you will keep renewing until you breathe your last breath. Every day, we have the opportunity to begin again. Every day, we are given the opportunity to ask for the fruits of the spirit —love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — in order to help us finish the marathon. Think of them as the Gatorade stations along the way. Replenish. Refill. Begin again. Ask Him.
The point of the marathon isn’t to collect the medal at the end, to check the distance off on your daily running calendar (though that no doubt would be very satisfying). The point is to become a runner. The point isn’t to become a Lenten ninja, able to leap out of bed in the still dark morning in a single bound. The point is to become more like God. Learning to leap out of bed is the means to making your heart more like His.
And it requires His help.
Struggling with Lenten discipline isn’t failure. It’s opportunity. Every time we struggle, we get to ask for fruits of the spirit. Every time we ask, and He answers, we see the boundless generosity of God. And every time we take the fruits and use them for His glory, we are a few steps further in the marathon of our lives.